Leaf-cutters united

A leaf-cutter bee, newly emerged from its nest and covered in pollen, resting on an Arum Lily in my back garden in Galway.

I bought a cheap ‘insect hotel’ a few years ago in Aldi or Lidl and nailed to one of my garden walls. Every insect duly ignored it at first, and after a while, the middle bit fell out. I was thinking of taking it down   until two years ago, when a leaf-cutter bee built nests into some of the bamboo tubes in the hotel, and laid eggs in them.


A close up of a leaf-cutter nest in a bamboo tube in my ‘insect hotel’. The nest consists of a leaf mulch that the female leaf-cutter manufactures by cutting circular pieces from leaves and chewing them up. The nest is sealed once the bee has laid an egg in it.

I didn’t even notice until this time last year, when the now-adult bees broke through the lids of their nests and emerged. Those bees made new nests in the hotel and laid new eggs , which survived the cold snap back in March unscathed, and grew into new bees. Over the last week or so, this year’s generation of bees have been emerging, so I made a short movie of the new arrivals (below).


Though the  bee hotel is in a good location (facing the sun and high up on a wall), the bees didn’t arrive until I planted a lavender patch nearby (more of that soon). There is one challenge for the new bees as they emerge – our cat Poppy being an asshole as usual (this picture was taken last year).